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Three for Thursday, Plus Two! (#2)

May 21, 2009

This week I thought I’d respond to a writing prompt put forth by the LiveJournal community The Friday Five. As before, I did cheat just a little bit by picking and choosing which prompt I wanted to respond to. But you don’t mind, do you?



  1. What was your favorite class/subject in school?

    This has varied over the years. It started off as reading. I’ve been able to read since I was two years old. In nursery school, I was already reading fluently (that is to say I was reading “with feeling,” not just jerkily sounding out words), although I hadn’t yet learned to read silently, and so I often ended up conducting my own story time without even realizing it. In first grade, my teacher put me in charge of the reading circle for a few days when she had laryngitis. THAT was a proud moment for me!

    Flashing forward to high school, I remember having a lot of fun taking a class they called “Forensics,” which was essentially a theatrical speech class. I’ve been interested in acting since I was very small, and that was my opportunity to do something related. Later in high school, I was completely taken in by a psychology class. As a social worker, my father would often regale me with psychological concepts and theories while I was growing up, and thus it seemed natural that I would find the academic subject fascinating.

    As for favorite college classes, I’ll get to that in a later question.

  2. Who was your favorite teacher?

    There were a number of teachers I had a particular rapport with. I loved my first grade teacher because she was very warm and nurturing. I recall she had some flowery-smelling hand lotion in her desk that she often let me use. And of course there was that time she put me in charge of the reading circle. My freshman year of high school, I befriended my French teacher, and at the end of the year I organized a surprise baby shower for her after she’d announced that she wouldn’t be coming back on account of impending first-time motherhood. In college, I had a calculus teacher I’ll never forget. He looked a lot like David Crosby, was a huge fan of the Beach Boys, and when he had one of his famous brain farts, would fill time by explaining that he took a lot of drugs in the ’60s. Yet despite his laid-back, easy-going nature, he did not suffer fools and he was a very effective instructor. What I appreciated about his grading style was that he always took the time to carefully follow my work on a problem to see where I went wrong, and when it was clear that I’d simply made an unfortunate transcription error, he would give me credit for what I’d done right not just up to that point, but after it as well.

  3. Why was your favorite teacher your favorite?

    In the end, my favorite teacher was my high school chemistry teacher (who also happened to teach that psychology class). She was one of those personalities everybody respected if not loved — everyone addressed her as Mama rather than Mrs., and I still think of her in terms of that affectionate title. On the first day of class she told her life story: As a young girl, she had suffered a terrible fever that killed her younger brother and left her hemiplegic. She walked with a stiff limp and her right hand was frozen into a tight claw that she was always stuffing the chalk into after writing on the blackboard. She told us that growing up, everyone always underestimated her because of her disability. When she studied chemistry in college, she was directly told that she could not do it because of her disability, and every single “You can’t do that!” drove her all the harder to prove that yes, she could, and better than anyone else. She was tough but fair, holding everyone to high standards and going out of her way to help them achieve those. Chemistry was not my best subject, and she would always hold after-school tutoring sessions for anyone who needed them (which included me, frequently). She even allowed me to come back after school if I needed more time on an exam. Thanks to her, I passed chemistry with a decent grade and never developed a hatred for the subject.

  4. What would you have liked to major in in college? Or what will you major in if you go to college?

    This is a story in itself! I was fascinated by the psychology class I’d taken in high school enough to decide to major in it in college. I had a lot of fun studying the subject, and even enjoyed the related (“cognate” was the term they used) classes in anthropology and sociology I was required to take. After a while, however, I decided that although I loved the subject itself, it wasn’t a career path I wanted to go down. At around the same time, I was taking a required linguistics class that was way beyond me. Apparently there were some pre-requisite classes I needed that they didn’t tell me about and didn’t enforce. I was lost. Hopelessly adrift. Nothing made sense. This precipitated a personal crisis. I couldn’t continue taking psychology classes, but I didn’t know what to do. For about a day, I considered dropping out.

    I was convinced to stay in school and, desperate to find something I could do, changed my major to public relations. (I’ll admit, the fact that it seemed easy was a large factor in my selection.) I enjoyed those classes for the most part, reveling in my ability to write a term paper on Dilbert for my Business Communications class. My biggest challenge was the art class I had to take. Between having no talent and OCD, that was one class that was far more stressful than it should have been.

    Having graduated with a major in public relations and a minor in psychology, I had trouble finding work. The university’s idea of a job placement program was a room full of binders that listed employers. I went on a few interviews and got nowhere.

    Web design appealed to me, so I took some Java programming classes at the local community college. I knew less about computers back then than I thought I did and was horribly naïve in my approach. I hadn’t realized Java and Javascript were not the same thing, and besides, good Web design was more than nifty baubles on a page. I came out of that with the lesson that I do not have a programmer’s mind. I did, however, get a job tutoring on campus: math and ESL (English as a Second Language). After a while of this, it occurred to me that I needed a better paying job. And how was I to acquire the skills needed to land a better paying job? Back to school again!

    Tutoring math gave me the notion that I could teach it. After all, how hard could it be? It was only math. Teaching at a college seemed to be a good gig, which meant I needed at least a master’s degree. Tutoring ESL made me fascinated with linguistics and gave me the notion that I wanted to invent my own language. So I started at the new university double-majoring in math and linguistics.

    It was right toward the end that I started having trouble. I hadn’t realized math got so abstract. I failed the last two required courses in a flaming ball of burn-out. I was tantalizingly close to a major in math, but was forced to graduate with a major in linguistics and a minor in math. At least I had a lot of fun in my linguistics classes. They were easily my favorite classes I ever took, as evidenced by the way I will wax geeky about the topic at the drop of a hat.

    All that said, I do wish I had a clearer idea of what I wanted to do with my life before I spent all that time and money in school. Although there was one good thing that came out of my second degree: It was there I met my sweetheart, Dan.

  5. Would you rather go to a small, medium, or large college, if you had the money to go to any of the three?

    Short answer: small college. The smaller the school, the smaller the classes and the better the instructor-student ratio. It’s nice to be able to talk to an instructor whenever you need to and know that you’ll be remembered as a person, not just some random student from out of the teeming mass of bodies packed into the lecture hall.

My turn now! I’ll ask five questions and you respond to them. You can post your replies here or at your own blog or journal. If you post elsewhere, be sure to link back to this entry.



  1. Do you have health insurance? What kind is it? (HMO, PPO, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, etc.)
  2. How well are you covered? Are there things you think or know you need that aren’t covered? What kind of co-pay do you have?
  3. What was the worst illness and/or injury you’ve suffered? How long until you were better? How badly was your life disrupted? Did you lose time off work (school if you were a kid at the time)?
  4. Have you ever been to a free/low-cost health clinic? How would you rate the treatment you received?
  5. What do you think is the biggest problem with the American health care system? What do you think needs to be done to fix it? (If you’re not in the US, what are the pros and cons of the health care system in place where you are?)
One Comment leave one →
  1. May 22, 2009 10:47 pm

    A thoughtful meme, I approve. ^.~*
    1. Yes, I have (my dad’s) health insurance, and it’s the sucky kind. (I think it’s an HMO.) I have United Healthcare, which almost no one takes- and if they do take it, they don’t know it and have to go dig out the contract from their files.
    2. I’m pretty well covered, with copays not significantly higher that average. We have excellent dental through a different insurance group- no copays on routine cleanings. My plan covers everything I’ve ever needed, with the unfortunate exception of decent emergency coverage. I needed an ambulance once and ended up paying $1200 out-of-pocket.
    3. The worst injury I’ve had was last year on the job with the City of Troy. The front end of my truck went into an incredibly well-camouflaged ditch as I was crossing a lawn, and I was catapulted skull-first into the roof of the cab. I had a moderately severe concussion: I was so disoriented that it took me 15 minutes to figure out why my phone wasn’t working to call my boss (my Bluetooth was still on, and I was attempting to use the phone normally U_U()), and it was about 5 hours until I could focus my eyes. I got paid for the rest of that day of work, but lost the next two days before the weekend because I couldn’t drive while taking Tylenol III. My employer’s insurance took care of the bill (thank goodness, as a CAT scan runs about $10,000), but not before Beaumont attempted to bill me personally. I spent four hours at work on the phone to straighten that one out.
    4. I went to Planned Parenthood for years, and never had anything but excellent service from them.
    5. Wow, can’t even go there. Briefly: a problem is that not everybody has health insurance, while a counter-problem is ensuring continuing competition in the medical profession while also keeping the bureaucracy out of medical decisions.

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